GRANGER at Halloween for 10/26/16: THE TEAR IN THE WRAPPER

Truth in advertising“, it read.

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Granger was fed up with the glut of political flyers in his mailbox and inboxes.  Tossing on his desk the garishly colored hit piece in yoga pants by a former state senator, he swung around and gazed unfocused out the window at a grayish, cotton-streaked sky with bruise-blue accents.  Chuffing through his nose, he thought, “Even the sky’s puzzled by it all.”

Bemused, he reached for his “Coffee Made Me Do It” mug.  Just before he got it to his mouth, he noticed the “fun-size” Butterfinger laying on his desk; it had been hidden by the big black mug.  Glancing over at the glass bowl full of assorted Halloween-sized candy, he saw many other bars identical to the one huddled behind his coffee.  You won’t get away from me-e-e . . .

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Amused at the desire-borne moisture in his mouth, he glommed onto the familiar yellow-orange-gold wrapper.  Granger actually licked his lips as he tore the wrapper lengthwise.

Opening the wrapper, he grimaced in disgust.  Really?  Instead of the neat, compact one-by-two-inch chocolate-covered nougat he expected to find, a sharded mess of odd-shaped pieces had fallen onto his black crew-neck tee and khaki pants.

Irritated, he started to grouse about something more to clean up when he suddenly got quiet.

I know people like that, he reasoned.  Brightly packaged, looking like others in The Bowl, like they’ve got it all together–until the wrapper comes off.  Unwrapped, they’re a ragged, jagged collection of misshapen pieces just waiting to fall all over the place.

Yeah, I know people like that.  I’ve been like that.

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As these thoughts jostled each other in his mind, he glanced again at the phrase off the discarded voting flyer:  “Truth In Advertising”.

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Granger’s eyes blurred and his voice thickened as he spoke aloud, a habit of those who spend most of their time alone.  “Oh, yeah.  Many’s the time that, had my wrapper torn, all my hidden insecurities, my personal misgivings, self-doubt, all those questions about myself would be laying all over in a huge, untidy mess just like–here he made a rueful face as he surveyed the slightly-sticky, sweet mess he’d dumped on his clothes– “my ill-fated little candy bar buddy, may it rest in pieces.”

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Later, wearing a comfortable black-and-red shirt with the sleeves rolled half up and a soft pair of old jeans, he stood with mug in left hand and coffee carafe in right, thinking about the recent experience.  Shaking his head as if to wake up, Granger poured a fresh, fragrant cup of Community Golden Caramel, returned to his desk chair and sat pondering.

Is it wrong to present a public appearance that’s attractive, appropriate to one’s task?  Does that not reflect good self-image and -respect?

Is it deceptive to present an outward persona that’s positive and uplifting, even when one’s interior landscape more resembles a barren wasteland?  As a Christ-follower, isn’t being winsome and attractive kind of necessary?

Sipping thoughtfully at the semi-sweet, smooth coffee, he answered his own question.

Deception is willful.  Wearing a mask is intended to hide, to frustrate and conceal.  If those are the reasons for the wrapper, then the advertising is dishonest and disingenuous.

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Image result for Christ Like spirit despite internal pain

If one’s desire is to be a consistent positive, encouraging and Christlike witness to one’s own world, then God can be trusted to know how to tenderly deal with the internal brokenness.  To fit the nonfitting.  To create beauty and symmetry just as perfectly as He did at The Original Event.

Rising to refill his mug, Granger thoughtfully nabbed another of the sweet, chocolaty morsels from the Halloween bowl.  Grinning as he softly checked that this one was whole, he admitted to himself, I don’t have this here “for the kids” since none ever come up here.  I have this here for me.  And I’m lovin’ it!

Butterfinger?

© D. Dean Boone, October 2016

 

Categories: Encouragement, Inspirational, Tell-A-Story-Make-A-Point | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

QTMs for 8/22/17: THE CROSS ECLIPSES ALL

Sometimes we do things that resonate in ways we never envision.

Yesterday, millions of people used every sort of eye-protective device imaginable to observe the long-heralded total eclipse.  Many invested money they didn’t have to spend, traveling for days they really didn’t have to give, to make the trip to places in the country where they could experience totality.

Totality . . .  A single picture of that event captured my creative spirit.

Somehow, the corona of 2017’s eclipse was superimposed on a reflection shaped like a cross.  Whether intentional or just another unexpected reflection from a camera lens, it can’t be ignored.

From 94.02 million miles distance, the sun’s radiance can destroy unprotected eyes staring at it from Earth.  This picture reminds me of the day the Creator of our sun and every other star in His universe hung suspended, bleeding out before a harsh, cynical crowd who’d come from all over for the show.  Most of them had traveled for days to get there, too.

What they saw was much more than any of them expected.  That day, God divided Time in half, forever exalting Jesus to be the singular focal point of all Time and history.

The corona of the eclipse was fascinating and unforgettable.  Yet that syzygy lasted no more than two minutes, forty seconds.

The crown God’s Son now wears gives totality a new meaning; it outshines any other source of light and lasts forever.

The Cross eclipses all.

© D. Dean Boone, August 2017

 

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QTMs for 8/21/17: THE WELCOME CAT IS OUT

I walk because I can.

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Walking was something, I admit, I took for granted, once I learned how.  Who gives two hisses about walking?

People who have faced being denied that freedom.  I’m one of those people.  So, yeah–I celebrate the ability to maintain balance, to walk into each new weekday morning with the same barely-muted joy as that with which I approach my first cup of joe.  Mm-hmph.  That enthusiastically!

My normal route is about 2 miles, and walking at my rate will take me about 40 minutes, unless the welcome cat is out.

That’s not a typo.  Nobody leaves welcome mats out on sidewalks or on park walkways.  And if you know cats, you’re aware:  nobody leaves cats anywhere.  Cats go wherever they want, thanks.

I was walking one morning several weeks ago.  The sun was being coy, playing peekaboo behind the scudding clouds of a summer-stormy Kansas morning.  Harrison Park has a nice, wide walkway that’s used by many of us who now know each other by sight.  We all wave congenially.  “G’mornin’.”  “Good morning, Sir.”  “Hey.”  “Goodmorning–”  And there’s always the earbud-induced mumbling that both greets and grinches.

It’s odd when there are few or no others on large sections of that walkway, yet this one morning, several weeks ago, I was by myself.  I was still mulling over something I’d seen as often as I walk.  Public sidewalks along the residential streets in this area are generally made of 5.5- by 4.5-foot stubby rectangles of smooth cement.  The only thing marring them is the commercial stamp of the company installing them.

Except for the paw prints on exactly 14 of them, up toward Dillons.

Cat’s paw prints.

Out in the middle, where one can see the audacious meandering of the airheaded feline.

It’s as if the cat rightly timed it so the cement wasn’t totally dry, but enough of the work was done that the guy finishing each section was tired and in no mood to follow a lackadaisical cat around.  “Aw, NUTS!  Fine.  Leave ’em.”

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I saw their imprint, morning after morning, meaningless until God began nudging me every time I walked alongside them.

What kind of tracks have you left in the soft hearts of your son and daughters?  In the lives of those you’ve counted across the years as ‘friend’?  Did you walk straight, not meandering here and there, interrupting and messing up others’ careful work?

You see, each morning as I walk, I use that time to pray around my family, scattered all over the United States as they’ve been throughout my life.  There are a limited number of men and women whose hearts beat in tune with mine, who are no blood relation but might as well be.  I consider it my privilege to lift and cover them all with my praying as I walk.

I also use that time to ask, “Okay, Lord.  Whatcha got for me today?  What can I write about?  Who needs some encouragement?  What’s on Your mind?”  Seemed like every day for weeks, now, God’s said, “What about the cat prints?”

Each day I’d go, “D’oh!” and say, “Right-right.  Got it.  Cat prints.”  And each day I’d get back here, head spinning with my own ideas.  You know how that happens . . .

As I walked several weeks ago, I was alone with just my thoughts.

And the Welcome Cat.

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I first noticed her lying in the partial shade on the north side.  She was smoky-dark, long-haired, wearing a collar and the proper green tag along with a personalized little pink one – the feline answer to bling.  Indistinct at first, as I closed the distance to where she laid quietly observing me with green eyes, I spoke.  “Well, good morning, Kitty.”

I grinned at myself for hearing in my mind, “Good morning yourself, Matt.”  One finds amusement where one can.

Upon hearing my greeting, she did that sprawling, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-I-n-g cat thing, sort of turning herself inside-out while giving that half-lidded stare only cats have down:  “Well?  You gonna rub my belly or what?  Ain’t got all day.”  Cats don’t smile, but if they did, she would have.  I stopped, bent down and rubbed her belly, petting her absentmindedly while looking around me for where she might’ve come from.  Knowing cats, it could be anywhere in this zip code.

After finishing my circuit of Harrison Park and waiting for traffic to thin a bit before crossing with the pedestrian light across Webb, I reflected.  I’ve never seen that cat before or since.  I asked others.  They’d never seen her, either.

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I think You put that cat there just for me, Lord.  I think You were reminding me of those tracks, left by an anonymous feline in those sections of concrete, years ago.  Unless those sections are jackhammered apart and hauled off, those tracks will always be right there.  I think You’re wanting me to be thinking about the tracks I’ve left on the trail behind me . . .

2nd Cup friend, I pray a Welcome Cat or two into your life.  Soon.

I’d be interested to know what lessons God uses the experience to teach you.

It’s later than I usually walk, but I needed to get this written.  If you’re on my permanent prayer list and feel a strange little twinge in your spirit about 20 minutes from now?  It’s me.  Just return the favor.  In this world, there’s no greater expression of love than to be praying over each other.

Okay–time to walk.  And talk.

From now on, every time I see those tracks, they’ll remind me of my own Welcome Cat.

I sort of hope it’s out today.

© D. Dean Boone, August 2017

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2nd Cup for 8/13/17: THE TOUGH OLD BIRDS OF WINTER

I want to be remembered as one of the tough old birds of winter.

Image result for coffee and toughnessI love Spring and Summer, don’t misunderstand.  There’s always a raucous surround-sound din of The Bird Choir from all points of the compass.  No matter the weather, or what kind of day I’m having, The Bird Choir’s always in full voice.

It takes a special breed of Christian to keep praying and singing at midnight.  Acts 16 says Paul and Silas were doing just that.  Details:  standing up for Christ’s gospel . . . setting an oppressed and enslaved woman free . . . loudmouthed God haters lying about the two Christian men and stirring up a violent mob . . . feckless judges going with the flow . . . God’s men locked in leg irons and dumped in a max security cell.

It’d be normal if Paul and Silas got ticked.  They were doing exactly what Jesus had told the disciples to be doing after He left them.  Paul knew he was doing what God had told him to do.  “GOD?  WHAT GIVES?”

Be honest.  We’ve all been there.  Anyone who’s dared to walk with God in this life knows the sting of delayed answers to praying, knows what it’s like to be unfairly accused by enemies of the Cross – and even by nominal believers who are convicted by the proximity of a real Christian.

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They didn’t.  “Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God” ( verse 25).  You can read about what happened.  See, Paul knew all about frustration while praying.  Check out Romans 8:26-27.  He remembered the prophet Daniel reminding impatient pray-ers that even when rock-solid sure we’re praying in God’s will, there are spiritual forces being incited by The Adversary to see those prayers never get through (Daniel 10:12-14).  It’s never successful, yet Hell definitely pushes back when God’s people get serious in their praying.

Hell knows nothing – not one thing – can effectively stop a Christian’s prayer from reaching God.  The answers can be delayed, though.

Enter the tough old birds of winter.

I want to be known as one.

They’re the ones whose single voice you hear on those crisp late November mornings when the fair-weather featherbrains have long since ridden the North wind south.  Those are the singular songs that have always gotten my attention when the morning is dreary–and frowning, bloated, bruised clouds fill the sky and threaten to affect my spirit.

These wonderful birds of winter are wise enough to know after all the rest of the avian choir has skedaddled South, there are plenty of great nests to pick from.  Properly built and sheltered, they work great to spend the bleak, windy winter months fixing up for Spring.

Image result for encouragementThey’re also wise enough to know there are guys like me who sometimes desperately need to hear their song.  So they brave the storms and ice and brisk wind to be there, singing strong and clear, being God’s messengers of how He always rewards stubborn faith that refuses to let doubt get the upper hand.

I’ll admit:  sometimes heading South when winter storms sweep across the Plains looks mighty appealing.  Then I recall how often, right when my spirit’s been shackled and dumped into dungeons of seeming impossibilities and delayed answers–during the midnight of my soul–there’s always been a song that’s lifted me up, blasted the constricting walls, and set me free.

A few experiences like that tend to toughen a fellow up.  They make me a little stronger for the next tussle with Hell.

 

It used to bug me to hear younger folks talk about grayhairs like me as ‘tough old birds’.

But now?  I think I’m getting to like it.

© D. Dean Boone, August 2017

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2nd Cup for 8/10/17: WHADDYA MEAN, “THERE IS NO TRY”?

The first thing to try when all else fails is again.

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  • REMEMBER WHO’S ALWAYS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER.  Jeremiah 29:11 has been abused by those trying to cram its sweep and majesty into paltry, Earthbound ambitions.  Snipping that single verse out of the rich tapestry of the chapter is like popular media copying a single phrase and saving a single picture frame to make their chosen narrative seem as if the speaker’s supporting something when he said just the opposite.  Wonder why few include verses 13-14?

That’s the real clincher:  “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you’re not disappointed.  GOD’S DECREE.” [The Message]   If you are fortunate enough to have one or two special friends whom you can always depend on to encourage and be your sounding board, thank God for them.  Seek them out.  Use them.  Lean on them.

Just listen to Him first.

No matter what other goals and dreams you have in this life, isn’t THIS the one you want more than anything else?  God’s always been your biggest cheerleader.  He’s promised to bless the work of your hands as long as you keep it and yourself synced with Him.  No, no spoonfeeding here.  Read.  Find those promises for yourself.  Talk to God about them and let Him inform you how they fit in your life.

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  • REMEMBER WHERE YOU’VE BEEN.   Whether you actually kept written notes or not, you know what you’ve tried before.  You know how you’ve tried it, what more or less worked, what worked once in awhile, and what became known as The Great Belly Flop of experiments.  You’ve likely wanted to just quit.

Congratulations!  You just found another way that doesn’t cut it.  Remembering where you’ve been, and what were your experiences then, will inform you now.  The Gaither Vocal Band first recorded THROUGH in 2006.  It immediately resonated within my own spirit.  I encourage you to find and absorb the lyrics.

However, if all you do is recycle where you’ve been, it can get disappointing, and even discouraging.  That can’t be good.  This was in this morning’s email inbox:  “When life hands you a hundred reasons to cry, show life you can find a thousand reasons to smile.”  It’s all a choice, my friend.  Yours.

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  • REMEMBER WHERE YOU’RE GOING.  Every professional coach will tell you that it is important to have your dream.  They’ll also declare it’s at least as important, if not more so, to have intermediate “bite-size” goals–waypoints along the journey to your seeing your dream come true.  PERSISTENCE is the key.

Karen Salmansohn writes that “the best things in life aren’t expensive, but expansive.  They grow who you are.”  She’s right.  Don’t think ‘cost’; think ‘value’.  Taken individually, your life experiences often frustrate.  Yet scrolling down through them together can give a composite reason why you don’t come close to resembling the person you were.  It’s clear.  You’ve grown.  You’re tougher, bigger and stronger.  And if you let Him, God can and will use every one of those negatives to help produce potent, positive results in and through you.

Remind yourself of your greatest supporters, with God as first in line.  Recall what your journey’s been like to this point–where you’ve been, what you’ve learned.  Then gather that all up and marinate it in the memory of where you’re headed–your desired end result.

Repeating these three things will help when you occasionally get your eyes off your dream and onto people.

Even the one staring at you in your mirror.

The first thing to try when all else fails is again.

© D. Dean Boone, August 2017

 

 

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QTMs for 8/9/17: TRIGGERS: 3 STEPS TO RESETTING ‘EM

Any shooter knows that every trigger has its own reset point.

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Not so fast.  Not a shooter?  Hang with me.  You should know by now that 2nd Cups are rarely what they seem; there’s usually a little something for all.  Even most people who don’t like coffee tend to love the smell of it.

Shooting accuracy improves as the shooter gets an educated trigger finger.  How?  Learn where the trigger reset point is on that particular weapon.  Instead of fully releasing pressure on the trigger after each shot, slowly release that pressure until you feel the snick of the trigger resetting for the next shot.

By maintaining that level of pressure instead of fully releasing it, you are prepared to take your next shot–and you are more easily acquiring your sight picture.  That round will be almost magically closer to the last one.

l experience chronic health challenges, as I know some of you do.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that where one’s health is concerned, there’s a definite cause and effect.

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Cause:  writing a chore-check marked “TO DOs” you know is too much.  Effect:  your body, mind and often your spirit stamping INSUFFICIENT FUNDSYes; I’m a constant malefactor with this one.

Cause:  messing with that cute little baby elephant.  Effect:  its honkin’ huge momma messin’ with YOU.  There’s cause and there’s effect.

Cause:  sassing your mom.  Effect:  seeing your mom looking over your shoulder, and you turning to see your dad standing there, tapping his belt gently on his right leg, saying, “Forgot to use the surge protector again, didn’t ya, boy?”  Cause and, ah, effect.

A psychological trigger is something that ignites a memory or flashback to an original traumatic event, ‘triggered’ by one or more of your five senses.  Sight and sound get top billing, followed by touch and smell, with taste close behind.

What follows a trigger is however you’ve programmed yourself by repeated thoughts and actions.  Physical, mental or spiritual, it doesn’t take long to ‘groove’ your mind to the point there are certain triggers bringing almost instant responses.

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Good, bad or “Meh”, you know what to expect with each trigger.  Right?

TRAIN TO RESET THOSE TRIGGERS.  Though I’m approaching this from a spiritual perspective, it applies.

ONE:  OWN IT.  PROACT INSTEAD OF REACT.  Accept that trigger is yours.  A trigger presents as an emotional reaction, a feeling.  It derives from something traumatic that happened in your past.  Since it is a feeling, it can and will change if you want it. 
TWO:  KILL, DON’T CODDLE (Colossians 3:5-6)As The Message puts it, “And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death:  sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy.  That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.”  Sure, it’s radical.  You know leaving a trigger untouched means repeated defeat in that area.  Shrugging and resignation won’t satisfy even you. 
THREE;  MOVE IN, DON’T JUST VISIT.  “Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts . . .  Let the word of Christ DWELL in you richly . . .” (Colossians 3:15, 16).  Decide how you’d rather feel.  YOU be in charge.  You ultimately control your feelings; either command them or they’ll run you.  To ‘dwell’ means a permanent move, not a two-week vacation.  Triggers don’t shoot unless there’s a finger pulling them.  When one pops up – and they do – think of a one- or two-word feeling you’d RATHER have than the one you keep letting push you around.

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There are all kinds of triggers.  Sometimes those pressuring your spirit are harder to detect, but often more damaging.  Whatever the case, you can train yourself to reset those triggers.

“Yep.  Saw you coming a mile off.  I call 2 Corinthians 10:3-6!”  (“demolishing”, “smashing”, “tearing down” . . . “fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ . . .’)

“RESET!”

© D. Dean Boone, August 2017

 

 

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2nd Cup for 8/3/17: LETTING YOU GO

“. . . filing the rough edges of my thoughts.”

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Sudden grief hits the soul like a tossed Jim Beam bottle hits the pavement.  The larger memory-shards are all odd-shaped.  Every edge bears the ability to slice and lacerate.  Those we easily see, gingerly picking them up and beginning the cleanup of myriad details.

The smaller bits aren’t as noticeable, yet they hide in the crevices between memories and conscious thoughts.  Though small, they yet are able to cut and wound.  They’re gritty and tough.  And because they’re so tiny, it takes time to locate and vacuum them up.

That’s sudden grief.  Now and then.  Present and future.  Immediate and gradual.  Never one or the other, but both/and.

The passing of a close friend who’s been ill hurts, even though there is the understanding death may be imminent.  When that best friend suddenly dies, the immediate relational vacuum is startling.

Image result for sad little boy waving goodbyeI had rejection issues as a boy.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  It just happened.

My siblings were all older than I; the next eldest brother almost 10 years older, and the oldest three 20 years ahead.  My eldest niece was 4 months older than I.  With my parents being the ages of all my ‘friends’ grandparents, I didn’t know where I fit.  At family gatherings, I always wound up with my siblings’ children.  I’d be around my own brothers and sisters briefly, during which time they’d all be ‘parenting’ me–then they’d leave.  Introverted anyway, I learned to hold my feelings in and be outwardly friendly.  It was good defensive armor.  It let me be a nice guy while keeping all at arm’s length.

There were friendly acquaintances aplenty.

Not real friends.  Especially not best friends, of whom I had two:  Thomas Shippentower and Lowry Rasmussen.  I never saw Thomas again after 7th grade.  Lowry and I parted after high school graduation and I only saw him once again, almost 13 years later.  It wasn’t long after that his body was found in his Corvette out in some woods.  It seemed like anyone I allowed inside my walls either left, too–or were taken from me.

As an adult, all those early experiences make it quite a mission to become a close friend to me.  I have one or two who made the effort to open themselves to me and welcome me to do the same with them; I believe them to be close friends.

For day-to-day checking up, by phone or by email; for palling around; for spending time baring hearts and spirits; for sharing life experiences and matters of deep, personal faith–I’ve never had a better friend than you, Jack.

Image result for USAF Enlisted Rank InsigniaWe wore the same uniform, shared many of the same military experiences and philosophies.  We prayed and discussed virtually every aspect of our adult lives as only senior adults scanning past decades are able to do.  We sang together, worshiped together.  We were at each other’s homes, eating, playing games, and discussing whatever happened to be on our minds and hearts.  Nothing was off limits.  And, man, did we share the coffee!

You and I, Jack, routinely met for years at Panera Bread on North Rock.  We always wore clothing that distinguished us as USAF veterans, and always thanked brothers in arms we recognized for their service.  There we were, an old SAC Bomb-Nav troop and an old ADC Air Control and Weapons weenie, proud and privileged to have served.  I always had a roll with my java, but you always had your healthy oatmeal and berries with yours.

Image result for panera bread on north rock roadI remember objecting the first time you wouldn’t let me buy mine.  You said, “I read your 2nd Cup of Coffee.  I’m what you call a “2nd Cupper”.  You’ve written so much that encourages me and makes me think.  I don’t have that gift.  So I use my tip money from volunteering out at the base to invite you here each week and repay you in the only way I can.  Let me do this.”

Image result for panera bread on north rock roadThen when we found a good spot to sit where we could talk, you again surprised me.  “As a pastor and chaplain, you always get asked to do the praying.  Let me ask the blessing.”  From then on, you never hesitated.  The minute we sat down, your hat came off and you blessed the food and our time together in as straightforward and humble a manner as I’ve ever experienced.  God listened to every word, and I felt those times to be sacred.

I know you always got a charge out of talking about how I’d named my guardian angel, Ralph.  I can still hear your laugh as you’d ask what I’d put him through since we’d last talked . . .

I wouldn’t know where to start in recounting all the things you and I shared all these years, Jack.  We deep-dived into each other’s family issues, knowing the information was safe.  Security clearances run deep.  Perhaps because of our shared Air Force background and our similar core values and ethical standards, there was an instinctive soul-link between us.

When I got the call you’d died last Saturday in a car accident, you’ll understand why I was stunned into silence.  Everything in me quieted down.  I could feel the old stirrings of a wounded little boy withdrawing quietly from the hurt and sere, vacant place where somebody I loved once was.  Old, impenetrable walls shot up before I could think.  It’s taking me some time to retract them.

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You see, Jack, real friendship doesn’t expire.  You’re gone now.  You’ve taken your last flight.  You’ve PCS’d Home.  I remember you shaking your head in wonderment at how God kept me here, and why.  And how often you shared your love for God, and how you looked forward to the release from this world’s troubles that is Heaven.

You’re there.  Yet your friendship remains vibrant.  Close friends are a gift from God to our hearts.  They don’t just happen.  So even though you’re so quickly no longer here, your being my authentic friend, my brother in Christ, and a comrade in arms never changes.  I hold those memories strong and always shall.

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.”  That epitomizes you, Jack.  I’ve never known a man more willing to stop what he’s doing to help someone else than you.  The day you died, you were doing a favor for an old friend who could no longer do for himself.

It’s why you were on the road that day instead of fiddling with those bare spots in your yard, trying to get grass to grow.  Could whatever stopped your heart have happened out in the yard?  Sure.  But it didn’t.

It happened as you were focused on “choosing for another’s highest good.”  That shines, Jack.  That’s just who you were.

Thank you for being my best friend.  It’ll be my honor to salute you as your earthly remains are laid to rest, surrounded by other men and women who chose to serve their country.

Letting you go is one of the toughest things I’ll ever do.  Yet I know where you are.  I’ll look you up one day.  Have the coffee hot and fresh.

Oh–tell Ralph ‘hey’ for me.  He deserves a Purple Heart.

© D. Dean Boone, August 4, 2017.

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Q(uiet) T(ime) M(using)s for 7/28/17: 2 WAYS TO THROW BACK FLOUNDERING FAITH

Your life as a Christian should make nonbelievers question their disbelief in God.

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I’m not talking about your philosophy of religion or your preferences for worship or your favorite spiritual guru.  Your philosophies and beliefs and membership in this or that church don’t amount to dryer lint if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

To do that, you admit your sinful ways, seek forgiveness from Jesus, accept Him as your personal Savior, and begin living for Him, walking in His way.

Sinful ways are those things God says to do, and you don’t; or God says not to do, and you do them anyway.

Seems simple, and it is.  Everything God’s laid out for us to live by is in His Word, the Bible.  And though we each must choose whether to accept or reject Christ as Lord on God’s terms, everyone is invited and welcome.  Nobody’s left out.

If you take exception to any of this, remember:  God’s the One who put this all together.  I’m not quarreling with you; I’m simply reminding you of what He’s been saying all along.  If you’ve an argument, take it up with Him.  I love you enough to give you His truth as best and as simply as I’m able.

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It’s when we decide to start picking which parts of it we like, dismissing the rest and trying to force everything we think to fit that things get complicated.

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If fish can be neurotic, adolescent flounders ought to take the cake.  Usually within 5 days, they go from looking like any other fish with eyes where they’re supposed to be, to something resembling a Picasso painting gone rogue.  One eye migrates over to the other side so the frustrated flounder is always lying on its side.

I know, right?!?  Famous flounder pickup lines . . .  “Hey, toots–I’ve had my eye on you . . .”  “Woah, baby.  You got the cutest little—-okay, where’d it go?”

God wasn’t being mean, though.  Looking spectacularly weird, those eyes give Floundy binocular vision:  each eye protrudes and swivels independently of the other.  Something to do with lying hidden on the bottom of the sea, waiting for unsuspecting shrimp to come bopping past.  Believe it or not, flounders and other flatfish like halibut, sole, turbots, and the rest of their weird-eyed kin have laser-fast reflexes.  Hunger will do that.  Flounders may look funny, but the shrimp are not amused.

Here’s the other reason God gave Floundy this gift:  it enables him to manipulate his skin pigments to match his background.  One was placed in a science class aquarium with a checkerboard bottom.  Within minutes, the flounder had changed its outward appearance to look amazingly like it.  From a distance, flounders effectively disappear.

Those strange eyes help make that happen.  If one eye is damaged or somehow covered, the fish isn’t as adept at hiding in plain sight.

Patience, grasshopper . . .

The only background for any authentic Christian is that of the Bible.  Not my ideas, your ideas, or even your church’s ideas.  That way, no matter what’s going on in your life, how you’re feeling?  The standard, the values, the core beliefs are always the same.  No confusion, no fuzzy images.  The background, the frame of your faith is always rock-solid.

Now consider a Facebook faith that draws what it thinks, does, and says from whatever its environment looks like.

By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10461464

This is four shots of the same fish, taken a few minutes apart. 

You’re getting the picture.

Floundering faith won’t cut it.

The Bible is clear about doubting vs. believing faith (James 1:6).  Jesus talked to the disciples openly about it (Matthew 8:13 & 9:29).  So when confronted by an obstacle to your faith, like the guys in Luke 5 packing their disabled friend in a sleeping bag, trying to get him to Jesus, there are only two answers.

  1. Shrug and blend in.
  2. Either find a way or make one.

Possible background environments where floundering faith might be comfortable:

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  • Distraction of the Flash, Glitter and PopularityGenesis 19:26
  • Trying to be somebody else1 Samuel 17:39
  • Listening to doubtersNehemiah 4:10
  • Leaky faithMatthew 13:58
  • All your StuffMatthew 19:22
  • Tyranny of What-IfsMark 16:3-4
  • FamilyLuke 9:59
  • Whatever’s weighing you downHebrews 12:1
  • Any one of these would make a great post by itself.

Make the time to look these up.  Think about the various “backgrounds” each scenario implies.  I’m sure you could come up with more, but you’re with me.  There are literally worlds of difference between an accommodating, smooth background of faith that accepts everybody’s ideas and lets them just blend in–and faith in God through Jesus Christ that says Jesus is The Door (John 10:9), and it’s before Him we’ll all bow and acknowledge Him as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).

So how do we keep our background solid and get rid of floundering faith?

  • Be being your brother’s brother, your sister’s sisterIsaiah 57:14; Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13  I almost explained these, but I’d be more interested in your ferreting them out yourself. 

 

  • Love your brother, love your sister1 John 2:10

Our spiritual foundations, our Christian background, for ourselves and for each other, IS our responsibility.  We do no one any favors by “blending in a little to identify”.  We all know it doesn’t stay ‘a little’.

I encourage you:  work to keep it as straight and clear as possible.  Then be diligent in living as real and practical a Christian life as you can.  Others are watching you, whom only you can reach.  There are plenty of confusing, shifting backgrounds out there vying for their attention.  If you aren’t filling their need for an example, the confusing, shifting crowd of religious opinions du jour will.

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Emerson wrote, ““ To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. ”  God didn’t mess up when He designed you.  What He’s after is a ‘you’ that’s working at pleasing Him, living a holy, Biblically practical life others have no problem picking out of the background.

There are a bunch of Floundys out there, totally misled and seriously confused about what to believe and how to live.

They need to see the real thing.

They need to see you.

© D. Dean Boone, July 2017

 

 

Categories: Common Sense, Encouragement, Inspirational | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

2nd Cup for 7/26/17: YOU HAVE TODAY. DO SOMETHING WITH IT!

Today is the day where EVERYTHING changes if you want it to.

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There won’t be any perfect day in the future.  Today is the perfect day–if you’re willing to use it.

If you want it bad enough, what seems impossible up to now will one day become your warmup.

Image result for Derek Weida Newest Pictures“Strength isn’t given to you or casually acquired.  Strength is forged in the fires of your soul” (Derek Weida).

Champions use days, they don’t let them happen.  Champions do daily what the mediocre do occasionally.  Champions figure you’re allowed to fail; you’re just not allowed to quit.  Champions think value, not cost; investment, not loss.

“But I’m no champion.”  If that’s your attitude, you’re right.

This is all your choice, this use of today.  You can do with it what you want to do with it.

Today is the day where EVERYTHING changes if you want it to.

There won’t be any perfect day in the future.  Today is the perfect day–if you’re willing to use it.

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You know where your quitting point is.  It’s that place you reach where you’ve programmed your mind to divert to something less taxing, less painful, less unpleasant.  You’re fine, pumped, revved–until you reach “My Quitting Point”.  So let’s say you’re already there.

The door marked “MQP” is right there on your left.  The one in front of you is marked, “WELL?” 

Two choices, right?

  • Ease on into that well-oiled, smoothly opening portal to shaming-yet-familiar failure, swearing “Next time!”
  • Force your way past the taxing, painful, unpleasant stuff and put Today in the WIN column.

Champions make the second one happen because they know the deadening, numbing cost of the first.  Persistence gets you past the resistance of those looking on who are comfortable and see you making them look bad.  If your goals for today set you apart from those you’re used to hanging with, stay alone.  God will direct you to better company because you’re being better company.

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Tough toenails.  Choices:  remember?

So, yeah.

Today is the day where EVERYTHING changes if you want it to.  Your personal walk with God, your health and wellness, your profession, your attitude, your outlook, your habits, your friendships, your associations–any or all of those can change today, if you want that.  Begin the process of stringing together a whole bunch of  championship todays.  Yours!

There won’t be any perfect day in the future.  Today is the perfect day–if you’re willing to use it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”  ( Proverbs 3:-8)

We all need encouragers, mentors, even trainers.  Let God direct you to those He knows are best for you.  Be willing to keep exercising a “spirit forged through roaring flames, searing heat and the purifying Light of countless soul-grinding skirmishes with the Adversary.”

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Begin today, but don’t feel you have to get all that done today.  Personal and spiritual excellence means you get up each morning to continue the forward progress from where you left off last night.  Matthew 6:34 wryly mentions that each day has its own ration of good and not-so-hot.

Take it one day at a time.  You’ll find that’s plenty.

Happy changing!

© D. Dean Boone, July 2017

Categories: Encouragement, Inspirational, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2nd Cup for 7/22/17: THE PASSWORD TO MY CIRCLE OF QUIET

Psalm 94:12-13, 18-19 puts it like this:  “Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law; you grant him relief from days of trouble . . . When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (NIV).

The Message says it thus:  “How blessed the man you train, God, the woman you instruct in your Word, providing a circle of quiet within the clamor of evil . . . The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,” your love, God, took hold and held me fast.  When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up.” emphasis mine

The longer I live and the more I observe people, the greater I appreciate this concept of “A Circle of Quiet within the clamor of evil.”  A peaceful, serene oasis in the median of this life’s surging expressway.

Image result for kids' clubhouseThe saying is, if you can remain calm in the midst of all this turmoil, you obviously don’t understand the situation.  Full disclosure?  There are a significant number of situations in this life about which I am clueless.  Being a recovering perfectionist, that used to gen up feverish anxiety in me.  Had to keep every one of those plates spinning.

Now?  I am finding joy in recognizing how many plates are not mine to spin and never picking them up in the first place.  Granted, it’s a work in progress.  Yet I’m cheerful in constantly working to not make unwise, rash commitments.  There are well-intentioned others who will overload me with tasks they’d love for me to do.  “You’re just the one to ________.  You’re so gifted that way!  A natural!”

Image result for overcommitted I know my health and wellness depend on controlling each day’s ‘to-do’ list.  I know my body’s signals better than anyone, even those who know me best.  My task is to be attentive, for I tend to push the boundaries.  Wise is the Dan who knows when to lovingly, yet firmly say ‘no’.

Image result for overcommitted I know my inner peace and spiritual gyros need to constantly be aligned with God’s best for me.  I can’t know what that is each morning unless I lovingly push away all people and things that intrude and step inside, shutting the door.

Within my Circle of Quiet, there is only room for

  • situations God knows require my attention.
  • solitude which allows my mind and spirit to peacefully flow, syncing with His.  
  • the written Words of the Living Word, none other than Jesus who is The Christ, God’s Son.
  • a writing pad to make notes about all the things God reveals while I am at peace and listening.

A mentor once showed me something I now often use.  When confronted by agitation and anxiety, whether inside or out, he said to hold out my hand and make a fist with fingers pointed upward.  “My closed fist,” he said, “means despite my claim to be God’s and walking in His peace, signified by my fingers pointing skyward, I still want to manage all this stress and discord that’s swirling around me right now.”

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He sat there quietly, letting me absorb how I looked with my outstretched hand, fist closed.  He knew I was mentally checking off every item on the growing list of indignancies and things I just knew I could do better if they’d just listen to—

“Whenever you’re ready to stop being God and trying to control everything and everybody around you, slowly open your hand and let it relax.  As you do, release ALL of those things to the only One capable of handling those situations.”

Then he pounced.

“When your hand was closed, even pointed piously upward, were you in any position to receive anything from God?”

Unfair.  Unkind.  Cheap shot.  Snicky, even.  I squeezed the word through my clenched teeth like cottage cheese through an old piece of screen.  “No.

“Look at it now.  Are you now able to receive from God anything He knows you need?”

As I nodded, so did he.  “Now, your hand, heart and spirit are open and relaxed, able to receive from Heaven.  You can even feel the difference, can’t you?”

I sat pondering, then dared to ask.  “How often do you need to do this?”

“As often as I catch myself trying to take things back into my own hands.”

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If you need me, check with me a little later.  I’ll be in my Circle of Quiet clubhouse.

Hmmph?  The password?

Oh.  Right.

“Coffee?”

© D. Dean Boone, July 2017

 

 

 

Categories: Common Sense, Encouragement, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

QTMs for 7/18/17: “SO YOU’RE RETIRING, HUNH?”

I am.  After 34 years of combined pastoral ministry and hospital chaplaincy, tonight at 7 PM the Kansas District of the Church of the Nazarene will confer upon me the title of Retired Elder.

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    “And what does that mean?  What changes does that bring?”

None.  My ministerial credentials remain the same.  We’ll drive back from Garden City, Kansas late tonight and pick up right where we left off before taking time out for the ceremony.

I’ll go right on teaching, singing and preaching at every opportunity.  I’ll write even more.  I’ll keep right on championing one of my passions, Shepherd’s Fold Ministries* DAY OF RENEWAL, which takes place again this fall on Thursday, October 26 at Wichita’s First Church of the Nazarene.

     “So, uh, the rest of us your age have spent, like, two hundred years working before we retired.  C’mon; give.”

From high school, I began college.  When jobs were scarce and the next year was in doubt, I enlisted in the Air Force.  After ten years of military/civilian government service, we went to Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS.  From there I began those 34 years.  In 2000-01 I took my CPE residency, chalking up 4.5 units.

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     “Any regrets?”

There is no greater privilege than to be doing and being what and where God wants me.  I’ve had the same disappointments and joys any other professional has.  Yet there’s never been a dull moment, and the terrific core of people I met in each church totally overshadows anything else that might have transpired.

Having said that, I wish I could have accomplished more prior to Spring of ’97 when I first got sick enough to die.  After a series of 5 thoracic surgeries and losing almost all my small intestine, I was officially disabled in ’03.  I still tried to carry on limited staff pastoral duties and weekend hospital chaplaincy; yet it became clear I didn’t have the stamina nor energy to maintain either.  In 2006 I had to stop.

     “So what are you doing now?”

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I stay busy.  Being sedentary has never been on my bucket list.  I began writing not long after the disease hit and kept me housebound.  I keep doing that, working on a book, short stories, and since 2013, maintaining this blog, www.2ndcupofcoffee.com.

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In addition, I’ve sung with my son in a Southern Gospel quartet, 4GRACE; done spiritual life speaking for a business group; provided pulpit supply for churches between pastors; been a special speaker for church homecoming; held special spiritual growth services; am a substitute teacher for an adult class; serve as a praise team member for regular worship; help lead Classic Worship services on Sunday nights; and assist the church pastoral staff in any way I’m able.

Brenda and I also tag-team to tell the story of my healing to church groups.

I love to putter in the yard, though this time of year is a challenge to keep up with weeds.  I walk 2 miles almost every weekday, and routinely do light dumbbell workouts two to three times a week.

In between those things, I care for our home while Brenda is working.  I’m not the best at it, but I don’t mind helping.

     “If you don’t mind me asking, what did you accomplish?”

With respect, none of us will ever know that until we’re Home.  Some things we saw as victories turned out later to be smoking ruins, while events we thought horrendous became channels of Heaven’s grace.  God’s the only one who accurately assesses and attaches value to anything done here.  So I don’t know.

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I learned a lot about people they’d be white with embarrassment if they knew.  Truth?  Pastors know a lot more about you than you’d ever be comfortable with them knowing.  Remember:  God’s men have His ear, and He theirs.  That knowledge is never to harm or wound, but it’s a good idea to assume your pastor isn’t the simpleton others may have told you he is.  Just sayin’.

I learned about super men and women who’d never once have blown their own horns, yet without whom few churches would exist, let alone survive.  I’ve observed people crowd their way into local church leadership who should never have been allowed there; and I’ve known many too humble to step forward who should have been there.

There is one thing Brenda and I accomplished.  Raised in Christian homes and always active in our local churches, we were sensitive to God’s leading from the day we married–and remain so.  We’ll leave our record in God’s hands, for we know we’re only one more couple who answered the call to become one of God’s many pastoral teams.

Yet we were and still are committed to following wherever we believe God’s leading.  It’s our opinion that is what God most wants from us.

Obedience.

It has been and remains my honor to serve Christ and His church.

© D. Dean Boone, July 2017      * www.shepherdsfoldministries.org

Categories: Common Sense, Inspirational | 1 Comment